Tony tentatively placed one furry paw in front of the other as he glided atop smooth waters while paddleboarding in Avila Beach on a recent summer day.
The 7-year-old Pekingese-poodle mix from Paso Robles quickly grew accustomed to his ocean voyage and even seemed to be enjoying himself. He walked to the tip of the board and stopped, feeling the wind on his face, as his humans, Paso Robles residents Chantel and John Meyer, maneuvered the board around Port San Luis Harbor.
“Since he was a baby, we’ve just done anything and everything with him — all the road trips, all the vacations,” John Meyer said. “He’s basically like our kid.”
In June, Tony was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. He’s not expected to live more than a year.
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His heart is about double the normal size, and his liver is also enlarged. The conditions developed about six months after a routine vet visit discovered a heart murmur.
The Meyers have struggled with the prognosis, but they look to find ways to make the most of their time left with him.
“My wife had this really great idea to make a bucket list for him,” John Meyer said. “We’ve just been taking pictures of him around the county and wherever else we go and can take him, so he can have some good memories.”
The bucket list isn’t too far from their normal life. It wasn’t even Tony’s first time paddleboarding.
So far, the bucket list adventures have included eating a Fido Burger at In-and-Out, road tripping to see Lassie’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and boating on Big Bear Lake.
But some of their more cherished trips are local ones: surfing at Morro Rock, hanging out at Amsterdam Coffee House in Paso Robles and even the simple pleasures of riding in an orange shopping cart at Home Depot in Atascadero.
The Meyers are also taking their other dog, a 1-year-old poodle and beagle mix named Ellie, on Tony’s bucket-list trips.
Next up: tackling Oceano Dunes.
“We’ll … see if we can get him on a sandrail with some goggles on. That would be pretty fun,” John Meyer said, laughing.
Tony is also having a party for his half birthday in Avila Beach this weekend, because he might not make it to his eighth birthday.
Today, Tony is on medication to help his symptoms, which include tiredness and troubled breathing. But he’s been up for most activities.
“He has good days and bad days, which scares me,” Chantel Meyer said. “But he’s mostly energetic, so that makes me happy.”
When Tony isn’t tired, the couple says he’s his normal, spunky self.
“He’s the boss,” John Meyer said. “He gets super independent at nighttime. But in the morning, he wants to be right on top of you, cuddling.”
He’s about 10 pounds, but Tony doesn’t know it.
“He owns everything. He owns the street,” Chantel Meyer said, smiling and scratching the pup’s fluffy ears.
“It’s been rough, knowing he has six to 12 months left. It’s just hard to know that,” Meyer said. “To look back and say, ‘Well, he was diagnosed in June and to count how long it’s been since then. But that’s why we created the bucket list — to make it easier on all of us.”
FOLLOW TONY AND ELLIE
To follow Tony and Ellie’s adventures, check out the TonyandEllie Meyer Facebook page. The Meyers use the hashtag #tonymeyerbucketlist to mark their experiences.